I call this salmon dish, “Cowboy Salmon” because it is an adaptation of a fabulous meal I saw prepared on Bobbie Flay’s grilling show. He had a guest chef on the program, who is known as “The Epicurean Cowboy”. He made this spice rubbed, cedar planked salmon as an ingredient for his fish tacos. The spice rub is made from brown sugar, crushed coffee beans and cumin. I was so intrigued by the idea, I just had to try it.
I made it a few weeks ago for a party I hosted for my tennis girlies. It was our end of season bash and I opted for two different kinds of fish tacos, homemade chips and salsa, and margaritas. The party was a huge success. The gals are still talking about it. However, I was so busy getting everything set up and served that I never had time to get photos of the party or the party food. I knew I wanted to make this salmon again, so I could photograph it and publish the recipe.
The Epicurean Cowboy serves his salmon with a spicy coleslaw on warm corn tortillas, which is how I served it at my party. But for my re-do I morphed the concept into something suitable for one of my Sunday dinners with my mother-in-law. Tacos seem a little too casual for Sunday dinner, so I deconstructed the recipe for my own purposes. I served the salmon, grilled and flaked. I served a spicy coleslaw on the side.
And instead of corn tortillas, I decided to make a grilled polenta. Polenta is typically an Italian dish, but I mixed things up and made it with a Mexican twist. I added roasted green chiles, green onions, crumbled Mexican cheese and a splash of lime juice. I grilled the polenta and garnished it with a little fresh cilantro. Wow, it was really amazing! I liked the pairing with the salmon even better than the original corn tortillas.
- Cedar Planked Salmon With Spicy Rub
- Grilled Polenta With Roasted Green Chiles and Queso Fresco
- Baja Coleslaw With Lime And Cilantro
- Mango Cheesecake With Lemon Basil Syrup
For the salmon, I used a cedar plank I had left over from my party. The plank needs to be soaked in water for at least an hour before it can be put on the grill. The idea is for the plank to smoke and add smoky flavor to the fish. If the plank is too dry, it will catch fire. I set the plank in my utility sink on my patio and turned the water on. It’s a big sink, and I wanted to fill it, so I left the water running, while I went back inside to work on another dish. Well, I got busy and lost track of the running water. When I thought of it, I ran out to see how bad it was. As suspected, the water was pouring over the top of the sink onto the patio floor. It was a nice little flood but no real harm done. The patio floors are really clean and shiny now. Terrific! Maybe I’ll do things the same way, the next time I’m soaking planks.
The salmon is dusted with a heavy dose of the spice rub, about a cup per pound of fish. I threw a handful of the rub onto the damp cedar plank, then set the filet on top of that. I added another generous handful of the spice rub to the top of the fish. I grilled it in the center of the grill on high.
The aroma from the smoking cedar is unbelievable. The sugar in the spice rub, caramelizes and creates a beautiful glaze on both sides of the fish.
For the polenta, I used and instant polenta, which is sometimes labeled, “pre-cooked”. It looks like fine corn meal. The regular polenta requires about 45 minutes of cooking and stirring. The instant kind cooks in about 5 minutes. I used chicken stock instead of water for more flavor. I added a small can of roasted green chiles, Ortega brand. You can roast your own peppers if you want, but the canned or jarred ones are just as good. I don’t take many short cuts when I cook, but I don’t mind using the jarred roasted peppers at all.
I added chopped green onions and diced Mexican cheese, queso fresco. It is a fresh, mild white cheese. I wished I had bought the melting kind, but instead I bought the crumbling kind. It turned out great anyway. The cheese cubes remained whole and they picked up nice grill marks for even more flavor when I grilled the polenta. After cooking the polenta thoroughly, I poured it into a buttered 9 by 12 pan. I covered it with plastic wrap and refrigerated it for about an hour.
I cut the chilled polenta into squares, drizzled it with a little olive oil and gave it a liberal sprinkle of coarse sea salt. I grilled it on a hot grill and it took longer than I had expected to get good grill marks. I checked it after 5 minutes and there were no grill marks. I was a little surprised, but I let it cook on and I got great grill marks after about 10 minutes per side.
I love, love, love to mix up coleslaw to suit my tastes. I use the bagged coleslaw mix and add my own dressings and add-ins. Sometimes I give it an Asian twist with a little sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce, or I might give it a Thai flair with fish sauce, chile peppers, sugar and rice vinegar. For this menu, I used my “South of the Border” flavor mix. I made the dressing out of lime juice and mayonnaise. I added diced jalapeno peppers, red onions and chopped fresh cilantro. It was so fresh and tasty. An excellent complement to the rich flavored fish and starchy polenta. It balanced the whole plate.
Some of you may think everything I serve turns out the way I want it to. Trust me, that is not true. Case in point, is the dessert I served with this menu. I saw Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network, make an unusual cheesecake. She made mango cheesecake with a lemon, basil syrup. It looked gorgeous on the television. I really wanted to try to make it, and I thought it would go perfectly with this menu. Well, my syrup turned out a weird shade of green that didn’t look appetizing at all. The cheesecake was too wet and sort of fluffy. I think cheesecake should be dense and flavorful. This didn’t have much flavor and I just couldn’t get past the green sauce. I’m not going to put the recipe on my site, but if you think it sounds good to you, Google it and you can easily find the recipe.